By Chaz Mayo
Arts & Entertainment Editor
These days, the cinematic landscape is dominated by big action blockbusters. From the Marvel superheroes to Hobbit- laden set pieces, familiarity with the most popular franchises is practically prereq- uisite to cultural literacy. Yet, there are many fine films produced every year that don’t receive this same level of attention. Some of these films even fly under the radar of the award circuits. That is why I have compiled this list of just a few recent movies that have not entirely received the praise they deserve:
The Way Way Back
Despite a 2011 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash did not find the same fervor of critical support for their 2013 script. Nonetheless, The Way Way Back captured the hearts of the people with an 84% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes. The endearing coming-of-age film follows a shy 14-year-old named Duncan (played by Liam James), whose part time job at a waterpark surprisingly helps him come into his own.
One of the most interesting aspects of this movie is that it features Steve Carell playing against type as Duncan’s moth- er’s manipulative boyfriend. Also star- ring is Sam Rockwell in his usual lovable goofball role, but this time brings a bit more groundedness to his performance as Duncan’s wise but flawed manager. Rob Corddry has a minor role and, as per usual, steals the show in every single
frame he’s in.
Overall, The Way Way Back twists
many of the conventions of its genre without losing the heart of the story in a satisfying and charming film.
Did you know that Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick starred in a dark comedy about a serial killer last year? Neither did anyone else. An almost nonexistent advertising campaign brought 2014’s The Voices to a couple of film fests and real- ly not much else. This is an especially regrettable occurrence given that it is one of the best made films in recent memory. In the film, a bathtub factory worker named Jerry (Reynolds) struggles to fit in and make friends, but his dark impulses and tragic past prove as worthy obstacles. In his trials, he is advised by the voices he projects on to his dog and cat (also voiced by Reynolds) in a devil-and-angel- on-the-shoulder dynamic. The film man- ages to go from cute to funny to scary, somehow back to funny to scary again, to heartbreaking and then, by some miracle, back to funny. Set in a suspiciously color- ful and vibrant world, the audience begins to doubt what is reality versus Jerry’s delusions. The Voices is the perfect film to restore your faith in Ryan Reynold’s act- ing career just in time for this upcoming summer’s Deadpool movie.
This may come as a surprise to many readers, but Tim Burton actually made a good movie recently. Even more surpris-
ingly, he did it without Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter or a creepy fan- tastical setting presumably designed by the lovechild of Franz Kafka and a Brother Grimm. Big Eyes, starring the masterful Amy Adams and the always brilliant Cristoph Waltz, is based on the true story of painter Margaret Keane and her husband, Walter, who took credit for her work for over a decade. The film’s narrative of deception and paranoia only gets more and more bizarre as Margaret slowly discovers just how deep her hus- band’s lies go. The script is a great match for Burton as his trademark twisted vision brings the story to life, while it’s ground- ing in reality prevents him from turning the film into another Dark Shadows. Big Eyes is so captivating that it nearly excus- es the atrocity that Beetlejuice 2 is almost certainly going to be.
I’m going to spare you all the shpiel on this last one. All you need to know is that Kevin Smith of Clerks fame made a movie about a podcaster who travels to Canada, is kidnapped by a deranged recluse and turned into a walrus. If that doesn’t already have you busting down the doors of the nearest Target to procure your DVD copy, then I am terrified for your soul. Oh, and did I mention that Johnny Depp has an uncredited yet pretty major role in this movie and it’s hilarious? Just go watch it; you’ll thank me later.